PREVIEW: Illinois vs. Iowa

Lead basketball reporter Derek Piper previews Illinois matchup with Iowa on Wednesday night.

Illinois (12-8, 2-5) vs.

Iowa (11-9, 3-4)

Date & Time: Jan. 25, 8 p.m. CT

Location: State Farm Center (Champaign, Ill.)

TV: BTN

Quick Hits

  • Illinois is on a three-game losing streak for the second time this season
  • The Illini haven't lost four in a row since 2013-14 when they dropped eight straight Big Ten games.
  • John Groce is 20-19 at home in Big Ten play during his tenure.
  • Illinois is 83-71 all-time against Iowa during the series.
  • The Illini are 61-16 against Iowa in Champaign, but the Hawkeyes have won the last two there.
  • Iowa hasn't won three straight in Champaign since 1975-77.
  • Iowa is on a two-game losing streak, and they're 0-3 on the road in Big Ten play.
  • Fran McCaffery is 45-52 in Big Ten play during his tenure.
  • The Hawkeyes have the Big Ten's leading scorer in Peter Jok (21.6 ppg).

Projected Starters

Tracy Abrams (GR): Abrams had two points, three fouls, three assists and three turnovers against Michigan on Saturday. He is shooting 23.9 percent from the field and 4.8 percent from three (1-of-21) in Big Ten play. He also has more fouls (17) than assists (12) in seven conference games.

Jalen Coleman-Lands (SO): Coleman-Lands was very quiet in Ann Arbor with just two points on four shot attempts in 20 minutes of action. He's shooting 41.7 percent from three in Big Ten play. But his overall consistency game-to-game is not there.

Malcolm Hill (SR): Hill had 16 points, five rebounds and four assists against Michigan. But he also had five turnovers. Hill has scored in double figures in 14 straight games. He is two points shy of 1,600 and 16 rebounds shy of 600 for his career, which would make him the fifth player in school history to reach both of those marks in their career.

Leron Black (R-SO): Black had four points and four rebounds in 13 minutes on Saturday. He is averaging only 6.7 points per game in Big Ten contests, while shooting below 40 percent.

Maverick Morgan (SR): Morgan had only six points against Michigan with just one rebound and three turnovers in 22 minutes. He has consistently been Illinois' second best player. But he wasn't good enough against the Wolverines.

Bench

Te'Jon Lucas (FR): Lucas scored all eight of his points in the final 1:35 on Saturday. He was 2-of-2 from the field and 3-of-3 from the line. He was unable to register an assist in his 15 minutes of action, though.

Kipper Nichols (R-FR): Nichols had four points, three rebounds and two turnovers against Michigan. He was 2-of-7 from the field and 0-of-2 from deep. He hasn't come close to recreating the outing he had against the Wolverines in Champaign two weeks ago.

Michael Finke (R-SO): Finke knocked down a three on Saturday, which was his only shot attempt of the afternoon. He finished with four points and three rebounds in 13 minutes. He is shooting higher than 56 percent from deep in Big Ten play, but the problem is getting him more looks.

Jaylon Tate (SR): Tate had four points and two rebounds in 20 minutes of action against Michigan. He played just 14 minutes in the four previous games combined.

Mike Thorne Jr. (GR): Thorne had seven points in 12 minutes on Saturday. He had only one rebound, though. But Groce said Thorne was "a load" in practice leading up to the last game, which is why he got the nod for more minutes.

Aaron Jordan (SO): Jordan had four rebounds in 10 minutes against Michigan, but he missed all three of his shot attempts. He played double-digit minutes in both meetings with Michigan, but not against any other opponent since November.

D.J. Williams (SO): Williams played a three-minute stretch in the first half on Saturday and he had a turnover. He wasn't seen on the court the rest of the game.

Iowa Starters

Jordan Bohannon (FR): The freshman point guard can hit threes and he is a talented playmaker. He is averaging 4.9 assists per game, which is fifth in the Big Ten. And to have an assist-to-turnover ratio higher than 2-to-1 as a freshman is impressive. Meanwhile, Bohannon averages two triples per game but he can get hot. He hit seven in a road loss at Notre Dame.

Isaiah Moss (R-FR): A former teammate of Williams' at Simeon, Moss has battled some inconsistency of late. He had 17 points and four rebounds at Nebraska earlier this month. Since then, he's had 20 points and three rebounds in the last four games combined.

Peter Jok (SR): Jok hasn't been right the last two games. He admitted to having a sore back after last week's game against Maryland, in which he had 14 points but went 4-of-12 from the field. He's had time to rest, though. And he can be as dangerous as they come offensively in the Big Ten. He had 29 points, eight assists and six rebounds in an upset win against Purdue earlier this month.

Cordell Pemsl (FR): Pemsl had nine points, four rebounds and two blocks against Maryland last week. He's put up solid numbers at 9.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, while being tied for the highest field goal percentage in the Big Ten (62.6 percent).

Tyler Cook (FR): This will be Cook's first game against Illinois, but the Illini saw plenty of him on the AAU circuit as one of their former targets. He is strong, athletic and plays with a high motor. Cook has been one of the most productive freshmen in the Big Ten with 12.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. He had eight points and seven rebounds the last time out against Maryland.

Three Things I'm Looking For

1. Help for the stars. You can bet on Jok and Hill doing what they do. And that's a good start. Obviously, both teams can't let that one All-Big Ten player kill them. But the key is what the supporting casts can produce. Morgan has been the only Illini player outside of Hill that you've been able to tab as positively consistent in Big Ten play. But even Morgan didn't have a great game against Michigan. Can Hill get enough help? Coleman-Lands, Black, Abrams, Finke, Lucas, and on down the line. Illinois has depth in numbers but not in consistent production right now. Meanwhile, Iowa likes to use a deep rotation. Cook and Bohannon are nice young talents. And the Hawkeyes are 11th in the country in bench minutes. If Hill and Jok cancel each other out, which team gets more from that next group?

2. First 10 minutes. Is one team able to set the tone? Illinois really needs to have a good start. They're playing with a lot of pressure to win this game and many afterwards. They're trying to rid themselves of the disappointment of this three-game losing streak. Getting some shots to go down early is big, and so is the ability to execute on defense. Make the young Hawkeyes feel like it's an uphill climb. On the flip side, if Illinois lets Iowa hang tight or even be out in front, it can be dangerous for them. The Hawkeyes haven't been great on the road. Two of their three Big Ten road games have been blowouts. But if they see a vulnerable opponent (which Illinois is) and start to settle in, it could be a long night.

3. Show and prove. Abrams said he expects his team to play one of their best games of the season on Wednesday. Players have said what needs to be fixed. Groce has said what needs to be fixed. Both will tell you they feel like they're close to having answers to the problems that plague them. But enough talk. Illinois has to go out there and prove it. If it's 'we need to play tougher', then go play tougher. If it's 'we need to defend for longer stretches', go defend for longer stretches. Results are all that matters.

Prediction

Illinois is a better team at home. Iowa has been a worse team away from home. That doesn't mean a win should come easy for the Illini, and it probably won't. Three of the next four games are at home. This team needs to go on a run. A pretty big run. And tonight should be one step up the ladder.

Illinois 77, Iowa 70


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